BAYONETS - To Clean or Not to Clean

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BAYONETS - There are a few question I first asked myself when I started to collect and trade bayonets.

  • What is the ideal condition - Cleaned or Uncleaned ?
  • What does Clean mean ?
  • What should NOT be cleaned ?
  • What condition offers the best value and investment ?
  • What does Untouched mean ?
  • What is the best way to maintain the condition of a bayonet ?

There are many other similar questions that relate to the diverse conditions and varity of bayonets and their respective collectable condition. We each will hold our own thoughts to the 'ideal' measures to a collectable bayonet based on condition.

This review is not about the 'rarity' or 'demand' for a particular bayonet, this review is specific to presentation condition of any given bayonet. The following are my own thoughts.

My very first bayonet was a Patt 1907 Wilkinson bayonet with a tear drop scabbard. When I unpacked the P07, I was suprised to find the bayonet coated in grease and other imperatives that had built up over decades of storage. Removing the bayonet from the scabbard, I found the blade held near 3mm coating of grease with the ricasso wiped clear for pictures used by the seller. The scabbard was also firmly coated in grease.

I was excited to receive my first bayonet but confused. Can I clean off the grease ? Will this effect the value ? If the grease is not removed, how do I best display for show and handling by friends and family ?

I sat back for a week or two and purchased another P07 from a different seller. This time a Sanderson and on arrival, yep, the bayonet again was coated in grease, just not as much grease this time compared to the Wilkinson bayonet. Must be that you keep these bayonets with grease and imperatives intacked. This is strange to me as I use to collect old porcalin and enamal petrol signs, one of the first steps you took to bring back the orginal finish was to clean away the grit and grim, apply a quality protective base and ensure the sign was stored in an appropriate position.

My background has been with the motor industry, primary classic and modified vehicles. I was chatting with a fellow collegue on the issue to cleaning or not with bayonets and he asked my a simple question ....... " If you found a T-Model Ford in a back yard shed, would you clean off the dust to see what you actually have ? "

Most other collectable industries, or the ones I can think of appreciate the orginal 'clean' nature of the collectable item. That night I took a few hours to gentle wipe and clean away the grease on the Wilkinson P07. The end result was sentational, not only was I taken back by the appearance but the 'real' touch and feel was one of value. The clarity to stamps, the metal work of the blade, the wood grips and their natural color showing. Stamps become obvious in places not expected such as on the hilt and leather impressions in the scabbard. Without cleaing away the grease, many presentable aspects to the Wilkinson would never be apparent and more importantly - I can now handle the bayonet, pass to my mates and appreciate the true presentation.

I have come to lean the storage practice for the Patt 1907 bayonet at the time was to coat the bayonet and scabbard in grease and box up in a create. This was to ensure longveity, rust proofing and allow the ability to re-use if needed. In effect the bayonets effective life ended when last placed into arsenal storage, the bayonets history, the travels and use concluded when coated in grease and boxed into storage.


So what is cleaning ?

My defination for bayonets is - To remove built up imperatives that would NOT otherwise be evident in actual use or as a result of age.

Cleaning is risky. Use the wrong agents and you diminsh the value and presentation, removing patina or tarnish will also diminsh the value and collectable nature of the bayonet. I view patina and tarnish as 'age ol time' effects and unlike the T-Model Ford that may need some rust removal, the bayonet is not a repairable entity and should retain and show any age related effects.

Removing patina and tarnish in my opinion will do nothing to add value to a particular bayonet. Yes, to an individual collector this appearance may be a preference but as a collectable and value appreciating item this would be in the wrong direction. I can not recommend strongly enought to avoid any harsh cleanig such as polishing, buffing and never 'touchup' any paintwork or finish.

In cleaning a bayonet, ensure you protect relivent areas and use the correct cleaning agents if nesseccary. You do not want to end up removing paintwork, effect metal work, effect wood grips or make the leather fragile.

Removing grease is a time consumming process. I look to gently wipe with a clean cloth that may be damp and turned often. This will gradualy reduce and remove the build up of grease, it may be required to use a very mild non-acidic dishwashing liquid watered down and used on a lightly damp cloth. It is extremely important to not leave any residue of cleaning products on the bayonet, ensure a fresh cloth is used last to bring the best appearance out for the bayonet.

Wood work can be saturated by grease, if is a very difficult and near impossible task to remove completely from the surface. I find I spend close to double the time on the wood grips than the remainder of the bayonet & scabbard. If you find the grips become dry, I would suggest a light coat of a quality wood oil. Normally, the wood grips coated in grease will retain a moistness about them - This is good and helps to assist longviety.


This rasies the question of 'Untouched'.

The efforts as stated above in removing grease are only looking to bring about an appearance that would nornmaly and naturaly show. So will cleaing a bayonet retain a claim of 'Untouched' ? Some will say no, I believe yes as the quality and true appeal of the bayonet is uneffected and in original state.

The example I use with my Wilkinson P07 has the bayonet diplayed in its original state prior to arsenal storage, reatining all the effects of time. There has been no restoration, no grips replaced, no sanding, no buffing, no filing, no repairs, no polishing and no use of rust removal agents. I consider the Wilkinson P07 as 'Untouched' orginal, the grease removed has not dimished any aspect to collectability and orginality.

Many bayonets I have pruchased since have never needed cleaing, the presentation on delivery has been excellent. These are bayonets that have passed hand to hand, seller to buyer many times in some cases. With no evidence to restoration or repair, I consider these bayonets as untouched orginals.

I appreciate some will agree and some will disagree with my thoughts and again, I appreciate the time you have taken to read this article and hope you have a great week ahead :)



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